Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Girl Comics 1 and Lost

Girl Comics #1 gets off to a shaky start on the cover, with the first in a series of clichés that run throughout the issue.

The “battle of the sexes” joke might have been relevant in the days of Billie Jean King vs. Bobby Riggs or as a late ‘60s image on Marvel's superhero parody comic Not Brand Echh, but it doesn’t work here. The editors likely want us to think of the concept as fun or campy, but it seems like an approach that would have been suggested and quickly rejected. Not only is it too obvious for a female-creator anthology, the unimaginative way it’s executed undermines the otherwise (hopefully) good intentions of the collection. It’s a hackneyed way to think about gender, taking the focus off of the artists as artists and putting it onto the fact that they are women who compete with men for work at Marvel (perhaps this focus is inescapable . . .). Also, we know that the female character will win the contest (could you have a Girl Comics cover that shows Iron Man beating a distraught She-Hulk or a teary-eyed Dazzler?), just as we know this victory will be short lived: the male–centered rules of the Marvel Universe demand it . . .

In this contest context, even the phrase “Women of Marvel” feels sketchy -- see here for why. (And is “women” added to compensate for a possible reading of “girl” as demeaning?)

Colleen Coover’s introduction has nicely drawn and colored art, but the clichés return in the dialogue and draw attention away from the attractive images.

The heroines’ phrases are less than inspiring: “we each are unique” and “We strive for excellence.” A Google search for “We strive for excellence” reveals over 19 million uses -- it’s one of the great expressions in uninspired self-promotion/advertising. And I don’t believe that Spiderwoman is really motivated by striving for excellence -- it’s got to be deeper, and stranger, than that . . .

The sexes battle again in the collection’s second story, which is driven by one of the cover’s clichés -- machismo under assault:

The male gods and superheroes have something at stake -- the thing that always seems to be worrying them: their masculinity. Why should it matter to Spiderman that She-Hulk is stronger than Iron Man? But he’s upset, as is Wolverine, who grabs his belt buckle; he’s got to keep it together. And why should it matter to these female creators?

The story “Moritat,” which features Nightcrawler, is the most ambitious in the collection, referencing the 1930 Marlene Dietrich movie The Blue Angel in a number of ways. But it’s hard to follow the narrative thread -- I’ve read it a number of times and can’t follow the logic from panel to panel (Why is there an explosion on page 2? or is this what happens when Nightcrawler teleports? But why would he be teleporting? When he reappears he’s only a few feet away from where he was . . . Could the bad guy really get knocked out by a shoe? What is the woman doing backstage? Is the audience unaware of the battle that’s taking place backstage -- isn’t the curtain open? Why don’t they seem worried?). The story is compressed into too few pages (the editor should have given it more space), and its ending is odd for a female-centered anthology. Nightcrawler saves the attractive young woman (who is a double for the cabaret singer -- both of whom look like Dietrich) and the last panel suggests they might have sex as his reward. The old “male saving the endangered female and screwing her” is an odd choice for a female-centered anthology. I always thought that, perhaps wrongly, this was a fantasy only a male would write.

Early in “Moritat,” a character tells the cabaret audience that “Tonight we return to the old standards. The songs that have served us for decades -- ”.

But are the comic's readers -- and the creators -- really served by a return to clichés that have been around so long?


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Ken Parille said...


Sorry -- I don't have the contact information for that site

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